Last surviving Soviet soldier to liberate Auschwitz dies aged 98
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Last surviving Soviet soldier to liberate Auschwitz dies aged 98

David Dushman said he could never forget the sight of the prisoners inside the Nazi death camp

One of the last surviving Soviet tank operators to liberate the Auschwitz death camp died on Saturday at the age of 98.

David Dushman drove his tank through the camp’s fence after it was abandoned by the retreating German army in January 1945.

The war veteran, who was Jewish, was later seriously hurt in the battle for Berlin and had part of his lung removed.

He went on to become a fencing champion and trained Olympic medal winners for the Soviet Union, but he was never able to come to terms with the sight that greeted him at Auschwitz.

“When we arrived, we saw the fence and these unfortunate people, we broke through the fence with our tanks. We gave food to the prisoners and continued,” he recounted in an interview last year.

“They were standing there, all of them in (prisoner) uniforms, only eyes, only eyes, very narrow – that was very terrible, very terrible.”

Asked why it had happened, he was lost for words.

“I’m not a politician, it’s hard for me to say,” he said.

“Of course it’s completely incomprehensible.”

Thomas Bach, a German national and fellow fencer who went on to become president of the International Olympic Committee, said he was deeply saddened by Dushman’s death.

“When we met in 1970, he immediately offered me friendship and counsel, despite Mr Dushman’s personal experience with World War II and Auschwitz, and he being a man of Jewish origin,” Bach said.

“This was such a deep human gesture that I will never ever forget it.”

More than 1.1 million men, women and children, most of them Jewish, died at Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi extermination centres.

One of just 69 men in his 12,000-strong column of tanks to survive the war, Dushman was seriously wounded and he had to have part of one lung removed, but it did not stop him becoming a professional fencer.

He recalled: “I couldn’t walk at all because I got out of breath. I started … I made up my own workout routing for one minute per day.

“So very, very gradually, slowly, slowly I reached a point where in 1951 I became the champion of Russia (in fencing).”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments